Lakers Rumors: Latest on Carmelo Anthony and Possible Kawhi Leonard Trade

Chris Roling@@Chris_RolingFeatured ColumnistJuly 10, 2018

San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard (2) celebrates sinking a basket in the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Dallas Mavericks onTuesday, Dec. 12, 2017, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press

The Los Angeles Lakers have guaranteed themselves nothing but hype with the arrival of LeBron James. 

Rumors suggest Magic Johnson and the front office know it, too. 

While the Lakers finally shook free of the stigma that chased them repeatedly into free agency over the years—that being a status as a point of leverage instead of a real destination—in the biggest way possible, James likely isn't enough in a Western Conference featuring the Golden State Warriors and Houston Rockets

Many of the ideal pairings fell through for one reason or another. Chris Paul wants to stick with the Rockets. Paul George shunned the hometown for camaraderie with the Oklahoma City Thunder. It goes on and on. 

But not all hope is lost when it comes to adding more firepower. 

Carmelo Anthony is still out there, or technically will be as his reps are working on a way to free him from the Thunder, according to Adrian Wojnarowski and Royce Young of ESPN.com. Odds are every team waits for him to hit the open market, where Los Angeles and Houston seem the likeliest destinations. 

Like anything else, this isn't going to be so cut and dry for the Lakers, who will have some heavy competition from Paul and the Rockets: 

Jordan Schultz @Schultz_Report

Source close to Chris Paul tells me that CP3 is advocating for the #Rockets to acquire his good friend, Carmelo Anthony. Melo, 34, made a career-high 169 3-pointers last season on a career-high 474 attempts (35.7 percent). https://t.co/C8LT4rSpFF

Playing with James or Paul and Harden might come down to personal preference for Anthony, who wasn't the best fit with the Thunder last year behind George and Russell Westbrook. He only shot a career-low 40.4 percent from the floor and his best fit on the market might come down to what role he's willing to accept. 

If it's more of an off-the-bench role, the Rockets might make the most sense. But outliers like the Miami Heat and Philadelphia 76ers might enter the fray: 

Kevin O'Connor @KevinOConnorNBA

Interesting. NBA execs largely consider Houston the favorite for Carmelo Anthony. Also have heard Lakers, Heat, and Sixers mentioned. I bet it’ll be the Rockets though. https://t.co/hHciV6PWvx

For the Lakers, the task is convincing Anthony he'll see plenty of chances and spotlight while also stepping out of the way for young pieces of the core such as Brandon Ingram and Kyle Kuzma. 

It's not an easy sell, though the appeal isn't hard to see. Anthony isn't just a friend to James, he's an experienced veteran like Rajon Rondo who can adapt to situations and perform, fitting the theme of the core the Lakers keep putting around James. As an aside, while most of his numbers were down last year, Anthony hit career-high 169 three-pointers last season, so there's hope he'll keep efficiently backing into a new role. 

Rick Bowmer/Associated Press

Finding a way to convince Anthony might be the final path to improvement here for the Lakers, as it doesn't seem the San Antonio Spurs are willing to play ball on a Kawhi Leonard trade. 

The ugly split between the two parties has yet to result in his getting shipped to the Lakers, which seems like the obvious outcome here. Unless the Spurs get an offer they can't refuse, trading him within the conference doesn't make any sense and Eastern Conference teams could shy away knowing he'll only be a one-year rental before he goes and joins the Lakers anyway. 

A Western Conference executive told Justin Tinsley of The Undefeated this saga should end soon enough. 

"You gotta expect that he's gone sooner than later," the executive said. "You don't want that dragging into the season. And for someone like Kawhi, you absolutely have to get something in return. ... It's like the entire league is just waiting on the shoe to drop."

Granted, there is always going to be conflicting information in a situation like this, as leaks aim to gain leverage for certain parties. For example, a report from ESPN.com's Michael C. Wright on the Count the Dings network's Back to Back podcast suggested Leonard doesn't want to go to the Lakers anymore, but instead join the Los Angeles Clippers

Eric Gay/Associated Press

That is funny, because the day before that report Wojnarowski reported on The Woj Pod (h/t LakersNation.com), that Leonard doesn't want to directly compete with James. 

Do you see how this can get confusing, if not tiresome? 

The report suggesting things could end soon might be wishful thinking at this point. Johnson and the Lakers front office don't have a reason to make a major offer, not with the understanding the relationship between Leonard and the Spurs is severed and other teams might not be willing to make the trade in the first place. 

All signs still point to Leonard joining the Lakers, though the how and when is more complicated. But with the front office striking out elsewhere when it comes to getting James some help, don't expect the Lakers to cough up a major trade package, or at least not near what the Spurs might want. 

For Lakers fans, this holding pattern on the acquisition of talent is still miles better than past offseasons given the major win they have already experienced. Another could be on the way, but when won't be as clear-cut as James' decision.